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Op-Ed | Saving New Yorkers from the opioid crisis

Dec. 12, 2023 By Mayor Eric Adams

A fatal overdose occurs in New York City every 3 hours. The opioid epidemic is a growing public health crisis that we must end.

It has inflicted too much heartache in our city. Manufacturers and distributors have hooked thousands of New Yorkers on opioids and other painkillers. They have raked in billions of dollars — profiting off of addiction and tragedy while people’s lives have been lost and destroyed.

Last year was the deadliest year on record for overdose deaths in our city. In 2022 alone, over 3,000 New Yorkers died of a drug overdose — a 12 percent increase from 2021 — and fentanyl overdoses made up 81 percent of those overdoses.

I know the destruction that overdose epidemics can cause. I was a police officer during the 1980s, and I saw how firsthand how crack devastated our communities. We cannot sit back and let what happened to prior generations happen to our families. This is the moment where we must do everything in our power to confront and defeat the opioid crisis.

Thanks to the efforts of New York Attorney General Letitia James, who secured billions of dollars from opioid manufacturers and distributors, we are investing in our neighborhoods across the five boroughs to fight this epidemic and save lives.

Just last week, our administration announced $12 million in new funding for Staten Island, which has been hit hard by the overdose epidemic. Staten Island accounts for five percent of all overdose deaths citywide and has the city’s second highest overdose rate of the five boroughs. We listened to the concerns of leaders on the ground in Staten Island, and we’re proud that this critical funding will make a real difference, and ensure more New Yorkers can live long, healthy lives with their loved ones.

This work goes hand-in-hand with the significant steps we have already taken to combat the opioid crisis. Earlier this year, we released our mental health agenda, which outlines how we will expand access to high-quality harm reduction services, and we set a bold goal of reducing overdose deaths by 15 percent by 2025.

We also held the first-ever two-day summit on the fentanyl crisis that brought elected leaders, public health officials, and law enforcement professionals from across the country to New York City to work towards a national strategy to combat fentanyl overdoses.

And through intensive enforcement, we have made hundreds of arrests of drug dealers and traffickers. In addition to expanded enforcement, we have increased our support for prevention, harm reduction, substance use disorder treatment, and recovery programs citywide, and have distributed more than 200,000 Naloxone kits and tens of thousands of fentanyl and xylazine test strips.

It is devastating to lose a loved one to an overdose. It impacts your family, friends, and community. It impacts this city. Every overdose death is a tragedy, but every overdose is also preventable.

We cannot repeat the mistakes of the past, and with these critical funds, we are tackling the opioid crisis head on. Together, we are going to reduce overdoses, save lives, and protect our communities.

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